All About Growing Torenia, The Wishbone Flower
Torenia is a profuse blooming annual that starts flowering early in the season and keeps up the show through fall, with minimal deadheading. Most varieties form a mound that eventually trails down the sides of pots. The plants are deer resistant and very attractive to hummingbirds.
Torenia's bright and quirky upturned flowers give rise to many common names. If you've ever seen one looking at you, you'll understand the name 'Clown Flower'. The name 'Wishbone Flower' comes from the way the anthers arch and join at the tip, when the flowers fist open. Visiting bees break the wishbone while pollinating. And 'Bluewing's should tell you that the original Torenia plants on the market, Torenia fournieri, had blue-purple tips on the petals.
- Flowers: Tubular flowers with two lips. The lower lip is divided into three lobes, often with a bright, yellow dot in the center lobe.
- Leaves: Narrow, somewhat oval leaves are opposite. They tend to be a bit hairy or sticky.
Wishbone Flower, Bluewings, Clown Flower
Mature Plant Size
Torenia forms a trailing mound that reaches about 8 - 12 inches (h) x 6 - 9 inches (w).
Partial Shade to Shade. Torenia appreciates some shade in hot areas. During really hot, humid summers, the plants will need to be kept well watered.
Torenia Growing Tips
Soil: Torenia is not particular about soil pH, but it does need a loamy soil that will drain but hold some moisture.
When to Plant: Start Torenia seeds about 6-8 weeks before the last frost date. Torenia does not transplant well, so seeds should be started in peat or paper pots. Don't cover the seeds with soil. Torenia is one of those plants that need light to germinate. Keep the soil moist and relatively warm (70 degrees F.) until the seeds germinate. After that, they can handle cooler temperatures. Pinching when a couple of inches high will help to create a bushier plant.
In warm climates, Torenia can be direct seeded outdoors, about 1 week before your last expected frost date.
Torenia plants are also widely available in most garden centers.
Transplanting: Torenia don't like being transplanted, so it's best to plant them in the peat or paper pots in which they were grown. Always harden off the plants gradually, before placing outside.
Caring for Your Torenia Plants
Aside from keeping Torenia well watered and fed, there isn't much maintenance necessary. There's really no need to deadhead. They'll keep on blooming unless they get too hot to set buds.
Feeding: Since Torenia are prolific bloomers and usually in containers, you'll want to give them a dose of flower food every two to three weeks. Foliage feeding, with a high potash food, seems to keep them happiest.
Pests & Problems of Torenia
Torenia is almost problem free. They can be susceptible to fungus diseases that will affect their leaves and stems. Keeping them stress-free (watered and cool) and providing good air circulation, so the leaves don't stay wet, should prevent most problems.
Suggested Torenia Varieties to Grow
- Torenia fournieri - Has a shorter, upright habit with flowers in shades of lavender, rose, and white, usually with a pale throat and a bright yellow dot in the center of the lower petal.
- Summer Wave® series - Blue, violet ,and amethyst Summer Wave Torenia from Proven Winner can handle the humidity better than other varieties.
- Torenia flava - The yellow wishbone flower has golden petal tips against a maroon throat. It trails nicely in baskets.
Using Torenia in the Garden
Torenia does best in containers because it doesn't like to sit in dry soil. You'll most often see it in hanging baskets, where it can fill out and shine on its own. It also works great as an accent against foliage plants, like sweet potato vines, or as an underplanting, or spiller, in a container with a larger plant, like an evergreen or fern.
If planted in the boarder, use it along shady edges and be prepared to give it plenty of water when things heat up. Torenia can self seed, but not to the point of nuisance. The flowers last quite awhile when cut.